Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect the trailer sizes as indicated in the borough engineer's report.
After working for more than a year out of the Hightstown Public Works building on Bank Street, Hightstown borough administrative personnel will have a new temporary home, thanks to recent concessions made by the borough’s insurance company.
During the Nov. 19 Hightstown Borough Council meeting, the council, as well as other borough employees, discussed possible options to house seven offices, as well as space for meetings, the borough’s computer server, and borough files, for a three-year period, which would be covered by the borough’s policy with Lexington Insurance Co.
Office space would be provided for the borough administrator, clerk, treasurer, plannin board secretary, construction official, tax accessor, tax collector, and water and sewage collector, as well as some of their support staff.
During the borough’s Nov. 5 meeting, Borough Engineer Carmela Roberts was asked to prepare possible options for temporary housing.
Roberts recommended during last Monday’s council meeting that the borough lease off-the-shelf, pre-manufactured trailers–one approx. 24’ by 60’ trailer that would hold four 10’-by-12’ offices, bathrooms, a small coffee area, and a large common area; one approx. 30’ by 60’ trailer, which would house six offices and similar areas; and an 8’ by 40’ storage trailer.
This would provide ample space for the borough’s current office needs, as well as provide a buffer in case of future spatial needs.
After comparing the pricing from two companies, Roberts recommended Pac-Van of Bordentown as the best company to rent from. Roberts also said, over a three-year period, the cost of leasing these units would be almost half that of purchasing.
Seven locations were considered for the placement of the trailers.
First among these was the current borough hall site on Main Street, but this was ruled out by Roberts due to projected reconstruction of the current Borough Hall. Roberts said there is not enough room in the upland portion of the site to allow for both temporary trailers and reconstruction.
Roberts also considered the Public Works site, but deemed this an innappopriate location, saying there is not enough room to fit the trailers and maintain use of the public works garage. Additionally, the garage is used for a variety of purposes, with big machinery going in and out on a regular basis, and Roberts does not deem the area safe for conducting municipal business.
Also considered but ruled out by Roberts is the Borough Water Department Property on Bank Street directly adjacent to the Public Works building. While there is a significant amount of open space by the Water Plant, the area is located within the 100-year Flood Zone.
“It’s very much so in the flood zone,”Roberts said.
Because of this, Roberts said it is unsafe to put the trailers in that area, as they will almost certainly be impacted by flooding. Roberts said she also considered the sewer plant location, but did not include it in her report, as she did not forsee the borough wanting to bring residents or employees there.
“Things are different down there now,” Roberts said, referencing foul odors that emanate from that area.
Roberts considered several other locations, however, that she recommended as viable options to the borough council.
Four lots sit behind the Ely House on Bank Street, with a portion of the lot located in the 100-year flood zone, another portion situated in the 500-year flood zone, and a third area completely outside a flood zone.
Roberst said enough of the property is “high and dry” and can fit trailers. A lease on the property would have to be negotiated with the property owner, John Wolfington, new water and sewage services would be required, connecting to borough utilities on Bank Street, and the parking lot would have to be repaved.
Currently housing the borough police is the Lucas Electric site on Mercer Street, which could offer the borough further housing with existing offices that require little modification. The building is currently separated into bathrooms, which may need to be updated to be handicap accessible, cubicles, and meeting rooms. Roberts said it is possible that the building could be moved into without any ronnovations.
Another option for the site is stationing trailers on the rear portion of the Lucas property where the police are located.
One possible issue with leasing the Lucas property, however, concerns its ownership. Currently foreclosed and owned by First Constitution Bank, the property would be leased at the bank’s discretion.
However, Roberts is unsure whether the bank would be willing to lease the property, since it is actively trying to sell the property.
Although, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, there is groundwater contamination on the site, namely ethylbenzine, toluene, and benzene, Roberts said there is no soil contamination.
JCP&L is responsible for the groundwater contamination, she said, and continues to work on remedying the site.
However, she does not believe there is any direct danger.
“The place is occupied, and that couldn’t be so if there was an immediate hazard to occupying those buildings,” Roberts said.
Roberts additionally looked at two vacant properties on Maxwell Avenue, adjacent to property owned by St. Anthony of Padua church.
Each property is about half an acre, located within the R3 Residential Zones, and are within a relatively central location to the borough, according to Roberts. One property is owned by Suburbun NJ Surplus, and the other by Dalal Development Corp.
Roberts said developing the properties might require stormwater management, as well as obtaining the go-ahead from a number of government entities.
Finally, Roberts discussed the Minute Maid property on Mercer Street, which provides the option of moving employees into the building.
A section of the existing warehouse building was being renovated for offices, and according to Roberts, the Minute Maid representative expressed interest in leasing the area to the borough.
The two-floor, 15,000 sq. ft. area would need renovations, which could be fitted out by the landlord, and the exterior would need to be accessible for parking and the public.
“The diamond in the rough with the Minute Maid property, that’s pretty interesting to know that’s there,” said Councilwoman Selena Bibens.
After discussing several of the options, the council directed Borough Administrator Mike Theokas to contact Wolfington in regards to the Ely House property, the property owners on Maxwell Avenue, St. Anthony of Padua Church regarding a large parking lot adjacent to the Maxwell Avenue properties, and First Constitution Bank about the Lucas property.
Roberts agreed to work with Police Director James Le Tellier to prepare a report that would include the police departments needs.